INCURSION #1 / Writer: Andy Diggle, Alex Paknadel / Artist: Doug Braithwaite / Colorist: José Villarrubia, Diego Rodriguez / Letterer: Marshall Dillon / Publisher: Valiant / Release date: February 20, 2019
The Valiant universe has an intergalactic wicked witch on the way known as Imperatrix Virago. Using her necromantic powers, she infects every biome of a planet until a tipping point of decay is reached, then consumes its living beings in one devastating flash. She prolongs her existence this way and hears word through the Deadside (Valiant’s afterlife, essentially) of someone on Earth who might make her everlasting race with death a lot easier. Incursion is imminent, but getting through Tama the Geomancer and her bodyguard Gilad the Eternal Warrior will be far from easy.
Everything about this debut issue is satisfying to me. Each character’s motives and powers lock into place as if the story was meant to happen. Virago is introduced in another galaxy where her threat to Earth is clearly established, then transitions into sending a small ward named Syntilla to scout our planet. Tama’s magic powers are simultaneously a mystery and a skill for her – her Book of the Geomancer is ever-changing, and watching her wield her powers against the formidable Syntilla is the kind of matchup readers have yet to witness.
Gilad is ever the practical but loyal warrior, holding Tama to strict supervision but willing to swing an axe in her defense in an instant. Andy Diggle and Alex Paknadel have kicked off what could easily be Valiant’s supernatural Infinity War if the stakes keep climbing. The dialog shifts plausibly between the stoic Gilad, impatient young Tama, playfully wicked Syntilla, and greedily menacing Virago. Everyone in the story has a clear sense of purpose, which is so important in an opening chapter.
Doug Braithwaite sells every visual beat in the issue. The opening sequence of Virago’s conquest is a relentless march of doom through dying species and starving masses, leading to her grinning victory. Gilad has a quiet moment of bringing home dinner through a lit doorway before bickering with Tama, and their expressions tell the story of two travelers who choose to endure each other’s incompatibilities.
All this build-up leads to undead hordes and opportunities for the heroes to flex, along with Braithwaite. Bodies are cleaved and sent flying while Gilad looks all but relaxed and Syntilla hums to his own tune. José Villarubia and Diego Rodriguez’s colors enhance the realistic and supernatural elements on the page alike. The orange lights of sunset and fire highlight Tama and Gilad’s faces early on, giving way to glowing blue ghosts, green portals, and purple blasts. This comic’s palette does not hold back from showing off special effects.
Marshall Dillon’s lettering makes clear distinctions between shifts in character, with different narrators’ boxes and supernatural characters’ dialog balloons assigned specific colors. Sound effects receive a corresponding treatment, too. Plants bursting through the ground are assigned green sound effects, while an explosion is rendered in rumbling letters and portals open with a quivering font resembling classic horror movie posters. Bolding is used for emphasis but sparingly, achieving a natural-sounding effect.
Based on this first chapter of Incursion, I think it is already walking in the footsteps of other compact but volatile Valiant quests into the undead such as Rapture and Faith: Dreamside. Readers new to the Geomancer and Eternal Warrior will not feel too lost, and longtime fans will get that familiar feeling of a rewarding ride that’s picking up speed.
Verdict: 4 out of 5 necromantic wards
Thomas is a teen services librarian who reads way too many comics. He can be found gobbling pancakes at the nearest diner with Jessica Cruz, Forsythe Jones III, Jane Foster, and Hellboy. He reviews media for the public here and graphic novels for librarians at No Flying, No Tights.